‘I’m ecstatic’: black liberation prisoner Mike Africa Sr released after 40 years

Reprinted from The Guardian
October 23, 2018
By Ed Pilkington

Member of the radical Philadelphia-based group Move 9, sentenced after violent confrontation with police in 1978, reunited with wife Debbie Africa and son Mike Jr

Move 9 prisoner Mike Africa Sr and his wife Debbie Africa reunited in Philadelphia after 40 years in prison. Photo: Tommy Oliver

 

Mike Africa Sr has become the second member of the Philadelphia-based group of black radicals known as the Move 9 to be released from prison, more than 40 years after they were arrested for the death of a police officer in one of the most dramatic shootouts of the black liberation era.

He was paroled from SCI Phoenix prison in Pennsylvania on Tuesday morning [October 23, 2018] to be reunited with his wife Debbie Africa, who was also let out on parole in June having been arrested alongside him at the climax of a police siege in 1978. They were joined by their son, Mike Africa Jr, who until Tuesday had never spent time with both parents in the same room.

“I’m ecstatic coming from where I was just a couple of hours ago,” Mike Sr told the Guardian, speaking from his son’s house outside Philadelphia. “I wasn’t convinced in my mind that this would happen until I walked out the prison gates.”

He said it was amazing to be reunited with his wife, who was held in separate women’s prisons for 40 years. “I missed her and I loved her. She’s been my girl since we were kids. That’s never wavered at all.”

Debbie Africa said she was overwhelmed to have her family back.

Mike Africa Sr’s release marks a big step in the struggle of black militants who are still behind bars decades after they were arrested for police killings and other violent acts in the late 1960s and 1970s. The Guardian highlighted their plight in July.

Eighteen individuals, including two Move women, Janine Phillips Africa, and Janet Hollaway Africa, remain in prison. Many of them insist they are innocent of the charges brought against them.

In the case of the Move 9, they were convicted collectively of the death of a police officer, James Ramp, in the 1978 siege of their group home in Philadelphia even though only one shot killed him. Debbie Africa was eight months pregnant at the time.

Mike Africa Sr’s parole is of even greater consequence for his family, and especially for his son Mike Africa Jr, who for 40 years has never seen both of his parents together or out of prison. He was born in a cell where his mother Debbie gave birth to him a month after she and her husband were arrested during the siege.

For three days Debbie kept her baby son concealed in the cell, hiding him under the covers, until she was forced to hand him over to prison guards. With both parents imprisoned until the eve of his 40th birthday, Mike Jr effectively became an orphan of the black liberation struggle.

He was raised by relatives and other members of Move and now lives with a family of his own outside Philadelphia.

“I’m having an out-of-body experience right now,” Mike Jr told the Guardian as he drove his father back to his home to be reunited with Debbie. “I’m floating over the top of the car.”

He said that this was what he had waiting for more than four decades – to be together for the first time with both his parents. “I’ve always hoped for this, but I never knew that it would happen,” he said.

Mike Africa Sr with Debbie Africa

Mike Africa Sr with Debbie Africa: ‘I missed her and I loved her – she’s been my girl since we were kids – that’s never wavered at all.’ Photo: Tommy Oliver

 

The 1978 siege of the Move 9 house in the Powelton Village neighborhood of Philadelphia was one of the most violent and visceral incidents of the years of black liberation struggle. At the time, 12 adults and 11 children were living in a communal house, along with 48 dogs.

Move was a unique organization that mixed revolutionary ideology better associated with the Black Panther party with care for nature and the environment better associated with flower power and the hippy movement. The group still exists today, largely in the Philadelphia area, and continues to campaign for the release of its remaining members behind bars.

Mike Sr’s release reduces the number of still-incarcerated Move 9 members to five. In addition to his parole and that of his wife, two others have died behind bars from health complications related to their imprisonment – Merle Austin Africa, in March 1998, and Phil Africa in January 2015.

Brad Thomson, of the Chicago-based People’s Law Office, who was part of the legal team presenting the released prisoner, said that Mike Sr’s record in prison was exceptional, making him a prime candidate for parole. “With this decision, the parole board recognizes that Mike, like Debbie, and the rest of the Move 9, poses absolutely no threat to the community.”

The siege that led to the incarceration of five Move men and four women occurred on 8 August 1978. Tension had mounted for months between the commune and Philadelphia police following complaints from neighbors and fears that the group was stockpiling weapons.

The order was given for hundreds of police officers to go in and evict the residents by the notoriously hardline then mayor of Philadelphia, the city’s former police commissioner Frank Rizzo. In the melee, Ramp was killed.

Mike Africa Jr

Mike Africa Jr: ‘I’m having an out-of-body experience right now.’ Photo: Mark Makela

All nine adult members of Move living in the house were held responsible for the shooting and sentenced to 30 to 100 years. At trial they told the jury that they had no working firearms in the house, though that was disputed by prosecutors.

With Mike and Debbie Africa now released, thoughts are turning to the remaining five Move members still in prison. Petitions for habeas corpus have been filed in federal court on behalf of the two women, Janine Phillips Africa and Janet Hollaway Africa, challenging recent parole denials.

Bret Grote, of the Abolitionist Law Center, another lawyer for the Move 9, said: “This historic release of Mike Africa renders the parole board’s decision to deny the rest of the Move 9 all the more incomprehensible. For example, Janet and Janine have both maintained prison records that are as exemplary as Mike’s and essentially identical to that of Debbie, yet they were inexplicably denied parole in May.”

Seven years after the siege of the Move house, a second trauma was dealt to the black radical group. The then mayor of Philadelphia, Wilson Goode, gave the go-ahead for an incendiary bomb to be dropped on top of another Move house.

It caused an inferno that killed 11 people, including five children. More than 60 houses in the predominantly African American neighborhood were razed to the ground.


Read more by Ed Pilkington for The Guardian
“A siege. A bomb. 48 dogs. And the black commune that would not surrender”
Forty years ago, Philadelphia erupted in one of the most dramatic shoot-outs of the black liberation struggle. Ed Pilkington tells the surreal story of the Move 9 – and what happened to them next. Read more.

Pack the Court and Streets for Mumia on Mon., December 3, 2018!

Monday, December 3, 2018 – 8 am,
Court Hearing for Mumia,
Criminal Justice Center,
1301 Filbert Street,
Room 1108,
Philadelphia, PA;
Get directions

 

In a court case that could eventually lead to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom, Judge Leon Tucker has ordered the District Attorney’s office to present new testimony in reference to Ronald Castille, on August 30, 2018. Castille is a former PA Supreme Court judge who refused to disqualify himself when Mumia’s case came before the court despite having been the Philadelphia District Attorney during Mumia’s prior appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that such conduct is unconstitutional.

A New Chance for Mumia

Click graphic for large version

 

 

 


A recent update on Mumia Abu Jamal’s case:
Philadelphia DA’s office stonewalls at hearing for Mumia Abu-Jamal
May 3, 2018

Sole remaining survivor of MOVE 9 tragedy gravely ill; community seeks funds

By Cherri Gregg
August 22, 2018
Reprinted from WKY News Radio

Supporters have launched a GoFundMe account.

WEST PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The last remaining survivor of the 1985 MOVE tragedy is gravely ill, and her supporters are asking for help.

“Ramona Africa’s health is critical at this point,” Sue Africa told reporters Wednesday, August 22, 2018, as she stood [at a press conference] outside of a home in West Philadelphia. Several members of the MOVE organization stood alongside her, including Michael Africa, Pam Africa, and Consuela Africa, whose two daughters were killed in the bombing.

“The people must come together to fight with us to ensure she comes through this,” said Consuela. She asked the public to help Ramona, who they say has lymphoma [which caused a stroke] and is disabled.

“She cannot walk because she suffered a terrible stroke,” Sue continued, “and now her insurance has run out.”


Sue said Ramona has insurance through UnitedHealthcare, which only pays for 30 days of treatment. Supporters are looking for more insurance, but say there is a lag time for the new insurance to kick in. While they wait, they say Ramona is regressing and she needs help now.

“They say it could take three to six months,” she said. “Mona can’t survive three to six months without therapy.”

Ramona Africa in hospitalSupporters launched a GoFundMe account seven days ago. So far, they have raised more than $14,000 of the $40,000 goal.

“We just need help at this particular time,” said Pam Africa.

The family refused to identify the facility that Ramona is housed in, citing her safety and wellness as a concern. Pam said Ramona took ill two months ago, around the same time Debbie Africa, the first member of the MOVE 9 imprisoned for the death of Philadelphia Police Officer James Ramp, was released.

“We have the best interest of our sister at heart,” Pam added. “We have good doctors working with her, as well as our own herbalists helping her.”

The family says they will be pressuring the insurance company to provide services. In the meantime, Sue said Ramona remains in good spirits.

“Mona is a survivor — it’s in her,” she said. “She will survive this and walk away from this and teach around the world.”

Audio story: https://omny.fm/shows/kywam-on-demand/supporters-announce-efforts-to-help-last-survivor/embed?style=cover&size=square&share=1

Donate to Ramona at https://www.gofundme.com/helpsaveramonaafrica.

Help Ramona Fight For Her Life

The MOVE Organization is informing our supporters, sympathizers and all those in solidarity with the cause of revolution, that our much beloved Ramona Africa, MOVE’s Minister of Communication, survivor of the May 13, 1985, holocaust, has been hospitalized as a result of health complications coming from a condition called PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). A direct result of the ongoing war waged on our Move Family by this government (we’ve lost 24 members to date). Two died in prison under suspicious circumstances termed “cancer.” Now Ramona is diagnosed with “cancer” and she’s again battling to be a survivor.

Ramona needs funds for a hospital bed, therapy to be able to walk again, skilled nursing full-time care and many other health needs. Please donate to her Go Fund Me page at https://www.gofundme.com/helpsaveramonaafrica.  Please share this information widely.

If there’s any questions or concerns people want to address please contact Alberta Africa or Sue Africa at these numbers: (215) 387-4107 or helpramonaafrica@gmail.com.

On The Move Long, Live John Africa!

Our much beloved Ramona Africa
Ramona Africa in hospital

40 Year Commemoration for MOVE 9

Commemorate 40th Year Anniversary Frame Up & Incarceration of MOVE 9Sunday, August 5, 2018

Fairmount Park:
9:30 am: Yoga
10 am: 5K Run, Walk, Bike with MOVE & Philly ABC
Register at phillyabc.wordpress.com/rdtw

Shoemaker Charter School:
3-5 pm: Panel
5-7 pm: Concert

Get flyer.
For more info: mikeafricajr@gmail.com and http://onamove.com/40-years/

Pack the Court and Streets for Mumia Abu Jamal on August 30, 2018

Demonstrate for Mumia Abu Jamal in PhiladelphiaAugust 30, 2018 – 8 am,
Court Hearing for Mumia,
Criminal Justice Center,
1301 Filbert Street,
Room 1108,
Philadelphia, PA;
Get directions

 

In a court case that could eventually lead to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom, Judge Leon Tucker has ordered the District Attorney’s office to present new testimony in reference to Ronald Castille, on August 30, 2018. Castille is a former PA Supreme Court judge who refused to disqualify himself when Mumia’s case came before the court despite having been the Philadelphia District Attorney during Mumia’s prior appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that such conduct is unconstitutional.

A New Chance for Mumia

Click graphic for large version

 

 

 


A recent update on Mumia Abu Jamal’s case:
Philadelphia DA’s office stonewalls at hearing for Mumia Abu-Jamal
May 3, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Debbie Africa Free! Baby-Snatching Practice Blocked Motherhood For 20-million Seconds (40 years)

June 20, 2018
Linn Washington Jr.
Reprinted from ThisCantBeHappening.net

Justice system abuses mothers with no apologies

Debbie’s son Mike said life was “hard” for him growing up without his mother and father, not having their “guidance” at times when he needed it. Mike said that when he went to wake up his mother the morning after her release from prison he saw her feet for the first time in his life.

“Things people take for granted like just talking to your parents — I never had,” Michael said. “Fortunately I had the support of my parent’s family, other MOVE members and MOVE supporters. It helped a lot.

“I can’t wait to see my dad come home.”

Debbie Africa, with son Mike Africa Jr. with photo of still imprisoned husband/father Mike Africa Sr

Debbie Africa with son Mike Jr. and photo of still imprisoned husband/father Mike Africa Sr. LBWPhoto

The arbitrary and often abusive practices of authorities that drove clashes between MOVE and Philadelphia City authorities were evident in the parole release of Debbie Africa – a parole granted after eight previous parole rejections.

Debbie and fellow MOVE members Janine and Janet each saw the Pennsylvania Parole Board on the same day. Each had similar unblemished prison records, each were credited with positively mentoring other inmates, each were praised for helping keep calm in the prison and each – for the first time ever – had a release recommendation from Philadelphia’s new District Attorney, Larry Krasner.

But the Parole Board rejected Janine and Janet while that Board released Debbie during a process that is completely secret even from lawyers representing inmates.

One reason given by the Parole Board for the rejection of Janine and Janet was they received a negative recommendation from Philly’s DA – a claim that is factually inaccurate according to Brad Thomson, the lawyer who represented Debbie, Janine and Janet during that parole proceeding.

“It is shocking that Janet and Janine were denied parole. Their circumstances and institutional records are nearly identical to Debbie’s,” stated Thomson, who attended the press conference with Debbie and Mike Jr.

“The decision to deny Janet and Janine appears arbitrary and it is difficult to understand how the Parole Board could justify it based on the facts that were presented,” noted Thomson of the People’s Law Office in Chicago.

Then again, arbitrariness and abuse riddled the MOVE 9 trial. The judge who convicted and sentenced the MOVE 9 during a non-jury proceeding said he meted out identical sentences because they “were a family” and that he, therefore, would sentence them as a family – a stance that made a mockery of the so-called maxim of prison time fitting the crime.

Police testimony during that long trial was that only the four MOVE men were armed and the MOVE women, including Debbie Africa, were merely holding children while huddled inside the basement of the then MOVE compound in Philadelphia’s Powelton Village during that 1978 shootout.

(Evidence furthermore indicates that police gunfire accidentally killed the policeman. Police experts could not match the bullet removed from the slain officer to any of the weapons recovered from the MOVE compound.)

The arrest and imprisonment of the MOVE 9 unleashed a chain of events that culminated in the horrific May 13, 1985 incident where Philadelphia police bombed another house occupied by MOVE members and deliberately allowed an inferno sparked by that bomb to burn, preventing firefighters from trying to put it out.

That bomb-triggered blaze incinerated 11 MOVE members including five children. That police blaze also destroyed 61 adjacent homes and left 250 people homeless.

Pennsylvania State Historic Marker near site of deadly 1985 bombing by Philadelphia police and FBI

Pennsylvania State Historic Marker near site of deadly 1985 bombing by police. LBWPhoto

Police snipers drove some MOVE members who tried to flee their burning building back into the inferno where temperatures reached 2,000-degrees. Only one MOVE adult and one child escaped that deadly firestorm.

One of the MOVE members murdered by police action during that 1985 clash was MOVE founder John Africa. The five youth deaths included the children of Janine and Janet, Debbie’s now former cellmates. No Philadelphia police officer or City official faced prosecution for that incident where an FBI agent supplied the main component for that bomb — military C-4 hi-explosive — that Philadelphia police dropped from a Pa State Police helicopter.

Debbie Africa said she is looking forward to strengthening bonds with her children and grandchildren. She will adjust to life outside prison like learning how to use a cell phone, a now ubiquitous device that didn’t exist at the time of her arrest in 1978. And she said she would work for the release of her imprisoned MOVE family members.

MOVE: Over four decades of resistance

By Ted Kelly
July 30, 2018
Reprinted from International Action Center website

MOVE 9 40 Year Commemoration

Earlier this summer, Philadelphia was in a state of celebration when political prisoner Debbie Africa was released after nearly four decades in prison. In August, prison abolitionists, in Philadelphia and across the world, will observe an anniversary with more solemnity than rejoicing.

August 8, 2018, marks the 40th anniversary of the city’s first major assault on the MOVE family, an episode that ended in the death of one of the family’s infants and in the arrest and imprisonment of nine MOVE family members.

To commemorate this anniversary, a three-part event will be held on Aug. 5. At 10 a.m., there will be a 5k run and walk that starts in Fairmount Park and goes to the original MOVE house in the city’s Powelton Village neighborhood. Then, at 3 p.m., there will be a public forum at Mastery Shoemaker High School on what today’s movements should learn from MOVE’s struggle. Following that forum will be a live concert at 5 p.m. featuring local artists Seraiah Nicole, Mic Africa, Raw Life Crew and more.

Free the MOVE 9

Debbie Africa, with son Mike Africa Jr. with photo of still imprisoned husband/father Mike Africa Sr

Debbie Africa with son Mike Jr. and photo of still imprisoned husband/ father Mike Africa Sr. LBWPhoto

Michael Africa Sr., one of the MOVE 9, has a new parole hearing this September. Despite the fact that Janet and Janine Africa were also up for parole at the same time as Debbie, she remains the only member of the MOVE 9 to be released. Debbie was imprisoned in 1978 along with her partner Mike Sr., as well as Delbert, Phil, Janet, Janine, Eddie, Merle and Chuck Africa.

All nine were convicted of the murder of a Philadelphia police officer who died from being struck by one of his fellow officers’ bullets in the hail of gunfire the police blasted into the MOVE home. Despite forensic evidence and scores of eyewitnesses indicating the officer was slain by “friendly fire,” all nine of the arrested MOVE members were convicted of firing the single bullet that killed him.

Immediately after the police assault on the MOVE family, the city bulldozed and destroyed the house, annihilating any and all evidence that could have been used to help exonerate the MOVE 9. The demolition also erased all evidence of the police siege on the compound and the massive structural damage done to the house by police water cannons, chemical gas and thousands of rounds of ammunition fired into the home.

Despite all this, even the city had to acknowledge that of the few weapons that were recovered from the MOVE family home, none of them were operable. That is to say, the MOVE 9 had no way of shooting anyone. Yet each of the MOVE 9 were sentenced to 30 to 100 years in prison.

Judge Edwin Malmed, who handed down the bogus convictions, was asked by then reporter Mumia Abu-Jamal how it could be considered a just decision that nine people were convicted of firing a single bullet. Malmed replied that since the nine wanted to be tried as a family, he convicted them as a family.

A history of oppression — and resistance

The Philadelphia police assault on the MOVE family on Aug. 8, 1978, was a clear escalation of violence, brutality and injustice. But the war on the Philadelphia Black Liberation movement had been raging for at least a decade before. The generalissimo who prosecuted that war was Frank Rizzo, the white supremacist police commissioner turned mayor.

A major attack on Black Liberation began in August 1970 when police raided the Philadelphia Black Panther headquarters. Dozens of Panthers were publicly stripped naked on Columbia Avenue before their arrest. In that era of Cointelpro infiltration, intimidation and assassination, the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panthers was just one of many to go underground or be destroyed outright.

The MOVE Organization, led by the visionary John Africa, is what filled the vacuum left by the Panthers in Philadelphia. With an ideology that combined an uncompromising dedication to Black Liberation with an unprecedented commitment to environmental justice and animal rights, MOVE became a revolutionary force to be reckoned with.

In a recent interview in Workers World, Debbie Africa explained: “[My brothers] got involved in MOVE activities, in speaking engagements — at the time they were in full throttle speaking out against injustice. They loved it, taking care of the dogs and going to study sessions that MOVE founder John Africa held, educating people how to avoid violence in their communities and on police brutality — the things that made people’s lives miserable.”

She added: “John Africa’s teachings really lock you into the reality of what’s really going on. The rest is history.”

For years, the city attempted to lock up members of the MOVE Organization. But John, and later Ramona, Africa’s remarkable legal astuteness meant they often escaped serious charges. That changed in 1978 when weeks of a siege on the MOVE house culminated in the Aug. 8 assault and the imprisonment of the MOVE 9.

Three years later, Black Panther journalist and MOVE supporter Mumia Abu-Jamal was also framed for the murder of a Philadelphia cop. A key witness to that incident was found dead under mysterious circumstances on May 13, 1985 — the same night that Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on the new MOVE house on Osage Avenue, killing eleven people, including founder John Africa and five children.

In the years since the 1978 assault and the 1985 state murders, the MOVE family has flourished and grown, despite mainstream media accounts to the contrary. Still, the city’s oppression has taken its toll. Mumia Abu-Jamal and six of the MOVE 9 are still in prison after 40 years. Merle and Phil Africa were murdered by the prison system — they died under lock and key.

This fortieth anniversary must mark not just four decades of resistance, but also a new chapter in that struggle.

Free the MOVE 9! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Free ‘em all!

‘This is huge’: black liberationist speaks out after her 40 years in prison

Reprint from original
By Ed Pilkington in New York
The Guardian
June 18, 2018

Exclusive: Debbie Sims Africa, the first freed member of a radical Philadelphia group many say were unjustly imprisoned, talks about reuniting with her son and defends the Move members still locked up: ‘We are peaceful people’

Debbie Sims Africa, age 22

Debbie Sims Africa was 22 when she was sentenced. Her release is seen as a major breakthrough for those imprisoned during the black liberation movement. Photograph: Courtesy of Michael Davis Africa Jr

The first member of a group of black radicals known as the Move Nine who have been incarcerated, they insist unjustly, for almost 40 years for killing a Philadelphia police officer has been released from prison.

Debbie Sims Africa, 61, walked free from Cambridge Springs prison in Pennsylvania on Saturday, June 16, 2018, having been granted parole. She was 22 when with her co-defendants she was arrested and sentenced to 30 to 100 years for the shooting death of officer James Ramp during a police siege of the group’s communal home on 8 August 1978.

She emerged from the correctional institution to be reunited with her son, Michael Davis Africa Jr, to whom she gave birth in a prison cell in September 1978, a month after her arrest.

“This is huge for us personally,” Sims Africa told the Guardian, speaking from her son’s home in a small town on the outskirts of Philadelphia where she will now live.

Davis Africa, 39, who was separated from his mother at less than a week old and has never spent time with her outside prison, said they were coming to terms with being reunited after almost four decades.

“Today I had breakfast with my mother for the first time,” he said. “There’s so much we haven’t done together.”

The release of Debbie Sims Africa is a major breakthrough regarding the ongoing incarceration of large numbers of individuals involved in the black liberation movement of the late 1960s and 1970s who are now growing old behind bars. At least 25 men and women belonging to Move or the former Black Panther party remain locked up, in some cases almost half a century after their arrests.

Michael Davis Africa Jr

Michael Davis Africa Jr on reunited with his mother: ‘There’s so much we haven’t done together.’ Photograph: Ed Pilkington for the Guardian

Sims Africa’s release also addresses one of the most hotly contested criminal justice cases in Philadelphia history. The nine were prosecuted together following a police siege of their headquarters in Powelton Village at the orders of Philadelphia’s notoriously hardline mayor and former police commissioner, Frank Rizzo.

Move, which exists today, regarded itself as a revolutionary movement committed to a healthy life free from oppression or pollution. In the 1970s it was something of a cross between black liberationists and early environmental activists. Its members all take “Africa” as their last name, to signal that they see each other as family.

Hundreds of police officers, organized in Swat teams and armed with machine guns, water cannons, teargas and bulldozers, were involved in the siege, which came at the end of a long standoff with the group relating to complaints about conditions in its premises. Two water cannon and smoke bombs were unleashed. The Move residents took refuge in a basement.

I had to feel my way up the stairs to get out of the basement with my baby in my arms

Sims Africa was eight months pregnant and was carrying her two-year-old daughter, Michelle. “We were being battered with high-powered water and smoke was everywhere,” she said. “I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face and I was choking. I had to feel my way up the stairs to get out of the basement with my baby in my arms.”

Shooting broke out and Ramp was killed by a single bullet. Prosecutors alleged that Move members fired the fatal shot and charged Sims Africa and the other eight with collective responsibility for his death.

Eyewitnesses, however, gave accounts suggesting that the shot may have come from the opposite direction to the basement, raising the possibility that Ramp was accidentally felled, by police fire. After the raid was over, weapons were found within the property. None were in operative condition.

In 1985, Philadelphia authorities carried out an even more controversial and deadly action against the remaining members of Move. A police helicopter dropped an incendiary bomb on to the roof of its then HQ in west Philadelphia, killing six adults including the group’s leader, John Africa, and five of their children.

That incident continues to have the distinction of being the only aerial bombing by police carried out on US soil.

At Sims Africa’s trial, no evidence was presented that she or the three other women charged alongside her had brandished or handled firearms during the siege. Nor was there any attempt on the part of the prosecution to prove that they had had any role in firing the shot that killed Ramp.

Sims Africa has had an unblemished disciplinary record in prison for the past 25 years. The last claim of misconduct against her dates to 1992.

Her attorneys presented the parole board with a 13-page dossier outlining her work as a mentor to other prisoners and as a dog handler who trains puppies that assist people with physical and cognitive disabilities. The dossier includes testimony from the correctional expert Martin Horn, who reviewed her record and concluded it was “remarkable”.

1984 Philadelphia police and FBI bombing of Move members

Philadelphia burn after officials dropped a bomb on the Move house in 1985. Photograph: AP

Horn said Sims Africa had “chosen to be a rule-abiding individual with the ability to be a productive, law-abiding citizen if she is released. I see a record of growing maturity, improved judgment and the assumption of personal responsibility. I do not believe that Debbie Sims is today a threat to the community.”

Sims Africa’s lawyer, Brad Thomson, commended the parole board for “recognizing that she is of exceptional character and well-deserving of parole. This is a storied victory for Debbie and her family, and the Move organization, and we are hoping it will be the first step in getting all the Move Nine out of prison.”

The release of Sims Africa comes less than two months before the 40th anniversary of the siege. Commemorative events are being held in Philadelphia, organised by Move, on 5 and 11 August.

The release of Sims Africa is bittersweet, however. Two of the nine have died in prison – another female inmate, Merle Austin Africa, in March 1998, and Phil Africa in January 2015.

Having to leave them was hard. I was torn up inside because I want to come home but I want them to come with me

Also bittersweet is the fact that Sims Africa went up for parole at exactly the same time, and on exactly the same terms, as the other two remaining Move Nine women – Janine Phillips Africa and Janet Hollaway Africa. They were both denied parole and will have to wait until May 2019 to try again.

Thomson said the disparity in the parole board’s decision was “very surprising”, given that the Philadelphia district attorney’s office that carried out the original trial prosecution had written letters supporting parole for all three. The parole board gave what the lawyer said were “boilerplate justifications” for the denial of Phillips Africa and Hollaway Africa, saying they displayed “lack of remorse”.

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Debbie Sims Africa’s husband also remains behind bars. Mike Davis Africa Sr is next up before the parole board, in September. The other Move Nine prisoners are Chuck Sims Africa, Delbert Orr Africa and Eddie Goodman Africa.

Michael Africa Jr and mother Debbie Sims Africa

Debbie Sims Africa with her son after her release from prison. Photograph: Courtesy of Michael Davis Africa Jr

Debbie Sims Africa told the Guardian the remaining prisoners were constantly in her mind and that she planned to devote much of her time campaigning for their release.

“Having to leave them was hard,” she said. “I was torn up inside because of course I want to come home but I want them to come with me. I was in shock when it didn’t happen that way.”

Asked if the two Move women with whom she had shared a cell in Cambridge Springs would be a threat to society if released, she said: “Absolutely not. They would not be a danger as I’m not.

“Nobody from the Move movement has been released from prison and ever committed a crime, going back to 1988. We are peaceful people.”

Pack the Court for Mumia!

Mobilize for Mumia!

MON., FEB. 26, 8 AM
Status Report for Mumia
Criminal Justice Center,
1301 Filbert Street,
Room 1108,
Philadelphia, PA;
Get directions
TUES., FEB. 27, 8 AM
Court Hearing for Mumia
Criminal Justice Center,
1301 Filbert Street,
Room 1108,
Philadelphia, PA;
Get directions

Pam Africa speaks to rally at Philly CourtIn a court case that could eventually lead to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom, Judge Leon Tucker has ordered the District Attorney’s office to present new testimony in reference to Ronald Castille, on Monday, February 26, 2018. Castille is a former PA Supreme Court judge who refused to disqualify himself when Mumia’s case came before the court despite having been the Philadelphia District Attorney during Mumia’s prior appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that such conduct is unconstitutional.

On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, we will be back in court to hear the court’s decision on Mumia’s appeal. Come to the courthouse to let them know that we demand they comply with the precedent: Mumia should never have had one of his appeals heard by a judge who was formerly the DA fighting his prior appeals – and NO ONE SHOULD! Mumia should win the right to have his appeal heard fairly!

Pack the Court for Mumia!
The people’s movement forced the courts to take Abu-Jamal off death row in 2011 but his freedom was not won. Despite his innocence, he was re-sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

As an innocent man, Mumia must be freed! It is even more urgent that he gains his freedom because he is suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, severe itching and other ailments threatening his life.

Get flyer.

 

Led by: International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ) and The MOVE Organization and Mobilization to Free Mumia

Endorsed by: Educators for Mumia, International Action Center; Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC); Campaign to Bring Mumia Home; Mobilization to Free Mumia (California); Oakland Teachers for Mumia; Committee to Save Mumia; Prison Radio; Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, Oakland, CA; Free Mumia Network, GERMANY (Free Mumia Berlin, Free Mumia Frankfurt, Free Mumia Heidelberg, and Free Mumia Nurnberg); French Collective Libérons Mumia, FRANCE; Saint-Denis Mumia Committee, FRANCE; Amig@s de Mumia de México, MEXICO; Frantz Fanon Foundation; International Workers Committee Against War and Exploitation; United Steelworkers; Local 8751,  School Bus Drivers Union; and more